In 3 days time the World's largest democracy will start going to the polls to elect a new Parliament. It will be held in 5 phases starting on April 16. Polling will take place on April 16,23,30 May 7 and 13. Elections will be held in all 5 phases in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh while Bihar will have 4 phase elections.Maharashtra and West Bengal will have elections in 3 phases.Counting of all the votes polled will be on May 16.
About 714000000 voters are eligible for voting.Polling will be held in 828804 polling stations using 1368430 electronic voting machines.The statistics about the number of Parties,the number of Candidates etc are yet to come in. That will also threw up mind boggling numbers. Indian Parliament elections is certainly the mother of all elections in the World.
Elections will be held for 543 seats of Lok Sabha,the lower house of Indian Parliament.
The Lok Sabha can have up to 552 members as envisaged in the Constitution of India (Article 81). It has a term of 5 years but it may be dissolved earlier by the President in the event of no party getting a majority. To be eligible for membership of Lok Sabha, a person must be a citizen of India and must not be less than 25 years of age. Up to 530 members can be elected from the states, up to 20 members from the Union territories and no more than two members can be nominated by the President of India.
As of now, the Lok Sabha has 545 members, 530 members from the states, 13 members from the Union territories and two nominated members representing the Anglo Indian community.
Certain number of seats are reserved for the historically socially discriminated communities included under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.After the recent delimitation of constituencies the number of seats reserved for Scheduled castes have increased from 79 to 84 and those reserved for Scheduled tribes have increased from 41 to 45. The number of un reserved seats is now 414 out of 543.
There are 7 National Political Parties and more than 50 State political parties. The candidate getting maximum number of valid votes in each constituency wins that Parliament seat.In the last Lok sabha 38 political parties were able to win seats.
The Indian National Congress lead United Progressive Alliance[UPA] and the Bharatiya Janata Party lead National Democratic Alliance[NDA] are the main opposing political groupings. A third front under the leadership of the Left Parties are also expected to win few seats.
All the opinion polls have predicted a hung Parliament with neither Fronts coming near the magic number of 272 seats. UPA may have a slight edge over NDA in numbers,but post poll alliances will determine who will be the Prime Minister.
Elections in India always used to fascinate me. The first election I remember was the one in 1977. Until then I believed[as an 8 yr old child] that Indira Gandhi will be the Prime Minister till her death.
Those days elections took place in only one or two phases and the counting will start immediately. Then we had the old paper ballot system with manual counting. We used to get the result after about 16 to 48 hours of counting. The counting used to continue through out the night.
In 1977 we had only All India Radio [AIR] as a news source for election results. AIR was under strict control of Government especially during the dictatorial emergency regime. So it had no credibility. Everybody was interested to know the fate of Congress under Indira Gandhi. All wanted her voted out.But AIR was not coming out with results.
So my father took me to a local newspaper office where there was public announcement of lead positions in various constituencies.A large number of people were gathered on the road in front of the office to hear the announcements. Each announcement was greeted with clapping or booing.
In that election the ruling Congress Party was swept out of power by the Janata Party wave.Indira Gandhi herself lost to Raj Narayan at Rae Bareily. That was the first time Indian National Congress,the Party of India's freedom struggle was dethroned by the power of ballot. Looking back we realise that Indian democracy attained maturity in 1977 by peacefully pushing out of power a dictatorial regime under Indira Gandhi.
What ever be its limitations and drawbacks, Indian experiment with democracy in a large, mainly poor and illiterate, multi-lingual,multi-religious and multi-ethnic country can be considered as a big success.
I have never wasted an opportunity to vote,whether it is municipal,State or National elections.This year also,on April 16th I will be a proud participant in this important exercise in the World's largest democracy.Hope each one of you will do the same.